[Home]Naming Conventions

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Names should be short but descriptive. For example Kayak Building is generally better than "How you make your own sea kayaks". The wiki language lets you create linkable names by using CamelCase, where there is a capitalized letter in the middle of a word with no spaces. This works but it will be easier to read for most people if you enclose names in two square brackets [[Name]]. This makes the word a linkable name. If someone has defined that name it will automatically be linked, otherwise it will appear with a question mark after it so that you can click on the question mark to define the name yourself.

Try to keep names general so they can encompass most of the material related to that name under them and then create subcatagories.

This page is a list of general policies on how to name pages. Most important to read are the first few sections: Free Links, Simplicity, Precision, Capitalization, and Pluralization.

The purpose of these policies is to make creating new pages with appropriate links easier. When writing Wiki pages on any subject, names, words, or phrases that you think should be linked to further information should be bracketed so that they will appear as links. Following consistent naming conventions makes it more likely that these links will lead to the right place.

Use Free Links

We should be using the new Free Links style of linking. There might be a few links where it will seem more appropriate to retain the old-style links (e.g., WikiWiki), but for the main content, there is no reason not to consistently use free linking. The old style of links are just a little silly-looking for an encyclopedia.

Lowercase second and subsequent words

For multiword pages there are two different styles of capitalization: capitalize only the first word, or capitalize all of them except articles and prepositions. For names of works obviously the latter should be used, but for everything else both systems are being employed. Notice: when you create a link with the first letter of the link uncapitalized, [like this]?, the first letter of the target page is capitalized. So [like this]? points to Like_this. In future versions of the Wiki software, this will occur with all words, including the first word of a subpage name; but for now these letters are case-sensitive so pay close attention to the conventions: subpages (like "/Talk?") currently begin with an uppercase letter--please preserve this standard.

Prefer singular nouns

Let's say you were writing a page about crayons. Should you call the page [[crayons]], which is basically what the page is about, or [[crayon]], which makes it easier to link to from passages like "Harold took out his purple crayon and drew up the covers"? Probably the latter. One can always write [[crayon]]s, but if the page is called [[crayons]], then whenever one wants to use the term in the singular, one is forced into typing the ungainly [[crayons|crayon]]. (If you didn't understand the latter link, you need to read this: How does one edit a page?)

Use common names of persons

As to names of persons, there are two schools of thought: use the most commonly used name, or use the person's full name. After a vote among those interested, we've come down in favor of the former. Names of persons should be the most commonly used name for the following reasons:

Examples of common names that should be used instead of formal names are: [George W. Bush]?, [Bill Clinton]?, [Al Gore]?, Mozart?, Bach?, Goethe?. Middle names should be avoided unless they are the most common form of a name. Names with initials should have spaces after each period as in normal English text, for example, [H. G. Wells]?.

Use simple titles

Remember that a link is the title of the page it links to. Titles should be as simple as possible without being too general. For example, the page about jazz? should simply be called "Jazz", not "Jazz music", because "jazz" does not refer to anything other than music, and the simpler title makes linking easier. Adding the word "music" is redundant. On the other hand, country music should be on a page called [Country music]? because the word "country" has other referents besides the musical genre. If we ignore potential ambiguity, the ideal of simplicity can be at odds with the ideal of precision: see below.

Prefer spelled-out phrases to acronyms

Whether the acronym? or the spelled-out phrase is preferable in many particular cases is debatable, but this can work itself out with the #REDIRECT [[new page name]] command. For instance, DMCA? and [Digital Millennium Copyright Act]? have oscillated as to which is primary and which page redirects. Other less controversial pairs are MPAA? versus [Motion Picture Association of America]? and IMDb? versus [Internet Movie Database]?. Usage in the language is also a factor. Radar? is an acronym, but spelling it out only obfuscates the meaning. WYSIWYG? is a newer example of an acronym that's crept into English usage on its own ([Rowan and Martin]? notwithstanding :-).

Be precise when necessary

Please, do not write or put an article on a page with an ambiguously-named title as though that title had no other meanings!

It's very important that we name our article titles precisely. If a word or phrase is highly ambiguous, and your article concerns only one of the meanings of that word or phrase, you should probably--not in all cases, but in many--use something more precise than just that word or phrase. So what should we call our articles when the title we want is ambiguous? This is a problem that is important for all Wikipedians to understand. There are a number of solutions; the appropriate solution in any case cannot be determined automatically, it seems. Finer-grained applications of these solutions, applied to individual subject matters, should appear further down on this page (or on appropriate subpages).

  1. More precise titles: In many cases, the most appropriate method will be simply to rename the articles with a more precise title, reserving the more general and obvious title for the central meaning of a word or phrase. For example, the central meaning of "Apollo" is the ancient Greek sun god; an article about the Apollo space program or about individual Apollo missions, for example, should probably be called "Apollo space program" and "Apollo 13" or whatever along those lines is appropriate. On the "Apollo" page, of course, one can always link to other pages that use "Apollo" in the title; see just below. For discussion of how to do this, see /Disambiguating?.
  2. Central links pages: One general solution to the problem of ambiguous names would be to have the central page, for example pipe? be simply a pointer page to the pages that a person might be looking for: [smoking pipe]?, [plumbing pipe]?, bagpipe?s. In this way, accidental linking still works, although a person will have to detour through the central page. Of course, this isn't always the most appropriate solution; often, a word or phrase does have one central meaning, in which case the article should concern that meaning and then link to other, secondary meanings either on more precisely-named pages (see above) or on subpages (see below).
  3. Central pages with subpages: It is entirely possible to make subpages of pages (see our editing instructions). For example, on a page about horses, one might make a /Breaking subpage to discuss horse-breaking. Alternatively, one might simply have a page called "Horse breaking". But be careful when choosing this option. Make sure that the subtopic is always or nearly always considered in the context of the main topic. For example, I might want to make a subpage of [Jimmy Carter]? about his election: [Jimmy Carter/Election]?. But bear in mind, there was another candidate in the 1976 U.S. presidential election--more generally, not everything about the 1976 election is properly considered in the context of Jimmy Carter's election. If I just want to link to an article about daffodil?s, I shouldn't have to know their exact place in the tree of life.

Use English words

Name your pages in English! If you are talking about a person, country, town, movie or book use the most used English version of the name for the article (as you would find in other encyclopedias). If you want, you could have an alias for the name of the person in his language, country or town in the there spoken language, original title or the movie or book stating what language it is in and where the actual information is (the article). Example Sweden Sverige.

Only use numbers for years

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Last edited April 12, 2006 2:21 pm by Michael Daly (diff)